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SmithField Foods Says Now is the Time to Pump More Money Into Sustainability

SmithField Foods has 45 processing facilities and 1,600 farms with which it contracts. The environment, food safety and animal care are pillars of the pork-maker’s corporate mission. It has goals, process and procedures to ensure each is given its highest level of attention.

“We look at the broader value our efforts bring about. The dollars are soft. But there is a bottom line impact: People, planet and profit are alive within SmithField,” William Gill, vice president of environmental affairs at SmithField Foods, told an Environmental Leader audience. “The way our pillars work together brings everyone into sustainability.”

For example, it has a significant amount of byproduct in the form of manure. It uses an anaerobic digester that breaks it down to form a biogas, which is then combusted to create electricity and heat. It can also be processed into a natural gas and moved along the pipelines. 

He says that the food maker’s customers want greenhouse gas goals in place. Who are they? The guys at WalMart and McDonalds, to name two. Both are deeply committed to sustainability and are demanding that their supply chains meet certain goals. Recently SmithField said it would improve its greenhouse gas goals by 25% by 2025.

Regarding the anaerobic digester, “If we can take that and convert to energy, we get a 20-fold improvement … If people turn away from because of the way we do business, we will look at that.”

What about the change in presidential administrations? Gill said that the company is pursuing initiatives that are good for it and its customers regardless of who occupies the White House. The Trump administration “is not favorable to the environment and sustainability but it is favorable to business,” says Gill.

“The management of our company says we are in a good business climate and we are not in a position of having to worry about whether our managers will cut my budget,” he adds. “We are looking forward to a good business environment. We can easily make sustainability better and now is an opportunity to pump more money into the cause.”

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